A Cornered Lion: Chapter 8-East of Suez

Author: Dick_Doug
Published: 2020-02-07, edited: 2020-02-18

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A Cornered Lion

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Game: Hearts of Iron III

A Cornered Lion: Chapter 7-The Long Bloody Road

Images: 75, author: Dick_Doug, published: 2019-12-24, edited: 2020-01-30

August 1943.

For the first time in four years, Europe is generally at peace. Small pockets of hardcore Nazi's and Axis forces continue to hold out against Allied and Soviet forces, but these engagements are few and far between.

With the major war fighting finally finished in Europe our troops now transition to occupation and rebuilding. France and the Low Countries need to be rebuilt and governments reintroduced to their respective countries. The German military is in desperate need of reorganization and denazification as well, and as such won't be a reliable force for war fighting and occupation for at least a year. All sorts of equipment have to be supplied and replaced to battered divisions scattered across Germany.

Our own forces are scattered as well, corps and divisions are wildly spread apart and have to be reorganized and moved back to their corp and army headquarters. This task has to be completely relatively quickly as troops are desperately needed in the Far East to help break the stalemate around Hanoi. The divisions most likely to be deployed East of Suez will be the Commandos, the Paras, and a regular line infantry corp or two. The Royal Navy and Airforce will also see heavy redeployment to the Far East to combat the Japanese navy and airforce. The IJN will be a very tough opponent for our boys.
The situation in the Far East is far from the victory we are seeing in Europe. Hong Kong, our main bastion in the orient is surrounded by what appears to be three corps of Japanese troops. Convoys bearing supplies are the only thing keeping the fortress alive, Japanese shelling and raids are frequent and the threat of a Japanese assault is always prevalent.

Elsewhere, troops are preparing for more operations. Plans to liberate the Dutch East Indies and secure air and naval bases are beginning to come to fruition. If any assault is to be made on China or Japan herself, the Japanese have to be pushed out of islands across the Pacific to secure our lines of supply and make troop deployment easier.
In Germany the situation is tense, almost two full Soviet armies are inside German borders and have to be moved out. Stavka orders came down ordering the troops back to Polish and Soviet lines but many troops wouldn't go easily. Quite a few times as the Soviets moved back, there were tense situations where a stand off between German or our own troops and Soviet infantry came close to firing shots to scare the other off. But eventually the Soviets began to move back towards their own borders.
Even with the fall of Germany, another nation joined the Axis. The small Asian nation of Yunnan joined the Axis and added another nation we would have to fight and defeat.
Back in Europe the Soviets annexed Slovakia and subjected another nation to the evils of Communism.
The Soviet conquest of Slovakia created a bulge in the borders; it jutted out in between Germany and Hungary and in any conflict would be a vulnerable point for either side to attack.
On September 10th the Task Forces 42 and 22 were deployed to the Far East. These two fleets contained the carriers-Ark Royal, Glorious, Illustrious, Furious, and Courageous.

The RAF also deployed new planes, including the new Hawker Typhoon, Spitfire Mk.XIV, as well as the De Haviland Mosquito. A squadron of Lancaster strategic bombers were also deployed to the Far East to support coming operations.

New planes weren't the only thing on the menu, new weapons including the Sterling SMG were being sent immediately to troops in the Far East. Our soldiers were going to need ever advantage our weapons could get them.
On the Home Front, the first Nuclear Reactor finished construction at Oxford University. As time passed our knowledge in Nuclear technology became more proficent and these Nuclear reactors that we had planned for construction would give us a quick edge in the construction of a Nuclear bomb.
In Scandinavia our diplomats went to work and started attempting to negotiate Sweden joining the Allies. Securing Sweden as an allie would allow us to station troops and get another foot in the door in Scandinavia in any potential war with the Soviets.
Since the Belgian and Dutch governments had fled to the UK following the German invasions in 1940. These two states had formed governments in exile and were quite eager to return to their homeland and pick up the pieces and rebuild!
The Japanese submarine menace was becoming a very real and dangerous threat to our overseas colonies. Many convoys to less important parts of our empire were either cancelled entirely or were manned by a skeleton force of ships. Convoys to Hong Kong and Malta had to be kept open; ships were also needed constantly to support the army around Hanoi, and more would soon be needed when four more corps entered the Far East.
To help combat the threat posed by the Japanese surface and submarine fleets, the decision was made to sortie with the whole of the RN deployed in the Far East. Five fleet and two escort carriers, along with four battleships sailed out.
Two days into the operation, HMS Furious and Courageous came upon a Japanese fleet, and after a fierce fight sent four ships, including an enemy battleship, to the bottom of the sea.

Another goal, besides the destruction of Japanese warships, was to find and kill Japanese supply convoys. Carrier based fighters and bombers were very skilled at finding convoys and launching attacks.
Two corps that had seen a majority of the fighting in the War in Europe were the 2nd and 5th Corps. After nearly three years of fighting these two corps were not up to strength. As troops in Europe rested and relaxed, replacement divisions would have to be formed and sent out to fill in gaps created by the destruction of old divisions. The most famous of these divisions was the 1st Gurkha's, who had been cut off and destroyed during combat around Zagreb. Many of the men taken prisoner opted to join up in new divisions and volunteered to continue the fight.

Many POWs made the same decision as well. Regiments, brigades, and divisions needing replacements found many willing volunteers in Allied POW camps. There was also the task of returning German and Axis POWs to their countries now that many of them had surrendered and joined the Allies. The task of transportation fell to the Merchant Fleet and the Canadian Navy. The Royal Navy and US Navy were too committed fighting in the Far East to spare the transports needed to get old enemies back home.
As peace began to settle back to Europe, one very odd thing became apparent. A Polish garrison division had formed up in Dover in the Home Islands. These troops were men who had escaped the Soviets when they had entered and 'liberated' Poland from the Nazis. Whether these men would fight to retake their homeland was yet to be seen.
Naval operations around Vietnam and the Philippines were becoming quite profitable, and many ship captains had taken on a pirate attitude. Going as far as to board some Japanese transports and send them to friendly harbors with Allied crews and taking prize ships. Some things in the Royal Navy never do change it appears.
On the French coast the 3rd Commando Corp and the 19th Corp finished finale preparations to deploy to Vietnam. These troops would hopefully arrive in good condition after travelling across half the world.
While troops sailed to Vietnam, two fresh corps of infantry finished their basic training back at Home.

These two corps would spend time in England finishing up their battle school before being shipped across the channel to join the British Army in Germany.
And in the early morning of the 29th of October, the French Government entered Paris and once again took up the French state. It was a historic day and celebrations took place across all of Europe and France. The French Government would still get assistance from our government but it would only be for a short time until the French got their legs underneath them.
The airfield in Hanoi became a small city with the arrival of so many RAF bombers and fighters, and not to mention all the supporting staff. These planes would be crucial to taking and maintaining air superiority for the coming battles around Hanoi.

Also newly arrived was the Para Corp. Transferred to Far East Command they arrived in Saigon on the 11th and immediately set about getting accustomed to jungle fighting. It was not yet known where these troops would take part but we were sure we could find a place in operations for the men of the maroon beret.
Near the end of November another crucial step in Nuclear technology was taken as our scientists completed their first stage of research. The second stage was immediately begun after brief celebrations.
OPERATION TUNNEL, TOP SECRET, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Operation Tunnel was the plane devised to finally dig the Japanese out of Vietnam. The first phase would see a Commando Corp take the island of Hainan, securing a blocking position for our navy to stop any attempt by the IJN to halt our landings. The second phase would see the two remaining Commando Corps land on the east bank of the Hanoi River and made a beach assault, at the same time attacks would be launched from the west bank by infantry and Gurkha's. All the big guns of the fleet, as well as the RAF planes massed in Hanoi and carrier based aircraft would be on hand to support the operation.
OPERATION MATCHLOCK, TOP SECRET, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Once the Japanese were dug out of Vietnam, operations would immediately begin to start retaking islands in the eastern Pacific for the drive to Tokyo. The first of these would be Operation Matchlock shown here. Once the Dutch Indies were taken from the Japanese the situation would be evaluated and further islands would be selected for assault and others that would be simply surrounded and isolated from the Japanese Home Islands.
Field Marshall Slim had put in several requests for tanks to be sent to the Far East for the coming assault. But it was evaluated that the new Centurion tank, which was being rolled out to armored divisions in Germany, was ill fit for operations in the Jungle and the job of deploying armor half way around the world was to going to be to complicated; so he would have to suffice with Commandos, Paras and over half the total strength from the RAF and RN.
Back on the Home Front, the first Jet Engine prototype was finished, soon the RAF would have hundreds of jet fighters and could dominate the skies anywhere our boys needed them!
The 10th Army was formed under General Dempsey. Dempsey had been the general who had overseen the landings in France earlier this year and since the armies in Europe were being condensed he was moved to the Far East and would be the commander of the newly formed army. These troops under Dempsey would be the men leading the landings around Hanoi and onward to Japan!
On the sixth of January the first phase of Operation Tunnel commenced. The Japanese and their allies would send two ill fated attempts to stop the landings on Hainan but both would finish with total destruction of the enemy fleets. Nine enemy ships would be sent to Davy Jones' Locker with no lose of life from our fleets. The landings themselves would not be opposed and the island would be secured less than 10 days later.
As the naval battles around Hainan were taking place, a second Nuclear reactor was finished in Oxford. Surely we are well on our way to getting Nuclear technology!
As our operations around Vietnam began to pick up pace it was obvious to the Japanese that something was going to take place. On the night of the 22nd of January the Japanese would launch a seven hour long assault on our line. It would only result it major losses for the Japanese and didn't make any impact on our lines. These losses though, would seem trivial compared to what was to come in the next few days.
In the early morning of the 30th of January, the landings began.

Troops of No.45 RM Commando sail towards the coast of Vietnam, in the background is HMS Orion of Task Force 36

Intelligence had reported that upwards of 40,000 Japanese soldiers were packed into the area our boys were about to land.

Many of our boys were sure of their own deaths. Wills and last testaments had been filled out on board the troop transports before the troops set out. But despite these fears by our men, not a man refused to get into the landing craft and make the assault.

In the air above them, RAF and carrier based planes roared overhead towards the landing zones. The ears of the assault troops was filled by the drone of the landing craft engines as well as the hellish shriek of the big 12 inch guns of the battleships. The noises the boys heard as they went in turned them into men as the beach drew closer and closer.
The Japanese carrier Zuiho exploding after being hit by bombers from HMS Ark Royal

As the landing craft hit the beaches, the Japanese Navy scrambled every available ship. Seven Japanese carriers, the Akagi, kaga,Hiryu,Soryu,Amagi,Akagi, and the Zuiho, were all thrust into the action. The result was a chaoitc battle with planes screaming back and forth, a pivotal advantage that our forces held over the out numbered Japanese was the amount of land based planes we could call upon. The RAF out of Hanoi launched devastating strikes on the Jap ships, the RAF was responsible for sinking the Kaga and several light cruisers and destroyers. The remaining Japanese carriers would be chased back to their bases with severe damage from the massed fighters of the RAF and RN Fleet Air Arm. The bravery and sacrifice our pilots showed in these battles was nothing short of a miracle and kept the skies clear for the Commandos and infantry. Two Victoria Crosses were awarded as well as countless MMs and Distinguished Flying Crosses.
Fighting in the Jungle was fierce and close quarters. Artillery and air support was constantly on stand by and used to demolish Japanese fighting position. The order for the assault from both the sea and land was to fix bayonets, and give no quarter.

For over half a year our troops had tried and failed to push the Japanese from the river and this was the operation to do it. Failure was not an option here.

And finally, after 12 days of combat the region was secure, we had our bridgehead across the river. The cost was frighteningly high, but Parliament and the Government was briefed and the word from the King was that no price was too high for final victory, anywhere.

This order from the King had only been given a few times during the war. Once, in the defense of the Suez Canal, and then again during the landings in France. And now it was being given in the Far East. But it extended to more than just Operation Tunnel, the King wanted the conquest of the Japanese Empire to be finished before 1945.
With the bridgehead across the Hanoi river secure and flooded with our Empire soldiers, the Royal Navy fleets on the seas to the east returned to ports before the IJN could do more damage. No ships of the RN had been lost but majority had some damage done to them. The RAF also retired to their airfields around Hanoi for some much needed rest. The RAF had flown over 900 sorties in the 12 day long operation.
The objective now was to clear the enemy directly across from Hanoi and widen the bridgehead for an attack on the port to the north. Attacks were slow going and Japanese assaults on other parts of our line threatened to make a breach, but timely counterattacks and good movement of divisions stopped the Japanese before any serious damage could be done.
Another four thousand of our brave men would perish but we were firmly across the river. 38 thousand Japanese had to be pushed from the region but we were finally across along the majority of the line. Next up, taking the port
A Japanese attack on our line resulted in bitter fighting and heavy losses on both sides. But we would repel the Japanese and send them back to their lines disorganized and with low morale.
With the Japanese sent reeling back to their lines, our own attack was quickly upon them just as they retreated. The Royal Navy would return for this climatic battle, whoever held this port would hold the fate of Vietnam in their hand. If our exhausted troops could secure the harbor and deny the Japanese supplies and food, victory would be secure. If the Japanese held it, they would surely continue to funnel and reinforce the nearly 250,000 soldiers already in the country.
Another battle was over and our troops marched on towards the port. The roads were open to the port, open, but paved with the blood and bodies of our men who would not see the sun rise the next morning.
While our troops drove the Japanese from their lines with ferocious attacks, a major naval battle came to a close on the seas. Several Japanese ships would see the end of the war but many more would spend the next months in harbor. The Japanese had committed several carriers as well to the battle and while they were damaged, none were sunk unfortunately.
The fighting in the north of Vietnam had been bloody and horrible. No quarter was given or received and our troops were nearing exhaustion. Few divisions would be able to press the attack to finish the Japanese and if the Japs found out how weak our forces were they would surely counterattack and drive us into the sea or back across the Hanoi river. A fresh corp that was supposed to be ear marked for Operation Matchlock was rushed north and landed in the newly opened harbor.
Away from the bloody rivers and jungles of Indo-China, the Soviet Union formally annexed Tannu Tuva. While not a large or strong country it still showed Stalin's intentions of swallowing up more and more free states to his Soviet Union.
While the great game of politics was played on the world stage the Americans made a bold move and retook the Philippines!

With our boys in Vietnam holding the Japanese navy's and armies attention the way was clear for the Americans to liberate the islands of the Philippines. This took away an objective that Operation Matchlock would have to overcome and would ease our path to Tokyo.

With the good news from the Philippines reaching our men in Vietnam, the final battle was launched. The 15th Royal Marine Division would be the spearhead of the attack and set out from their lines at night. Immediately resistance wasn't as heavy as predicted, as our men pressed on and advanced it became clear that the Japanese army in Indo-China had no morale. With their only evacuation and supply line cut, and surrounded in the Jungle. Our men began to come across mass graves where whole companies had committed suicide rather than surrender to us.

The assault by the 15th Marines would only cost us 34 men and would finally secure the whole of the Hanoi River.
Further advancements by Royal Marines would see the rest of the Japanese resistance totally fall apart. Some Japanese soldiers would surrender to our men, half starved and terrified these men came stumbling into our lines begging for food and water, these me were sent to the rear and given proper medical attention.
But while we did secure some prisoners, majority of the roughly 279,000 Japanese who had still been trapped around Hanoi when Operation Tunnel finally came to an end. Would meet their fate somewhere in the Jungle. Maybe they ran off to continue the war deep inside the Vietnamese jungle, but most of them would die in mass suicides. Engineers and soldiers would spend the next few weeks digging graves and reorganizing our own battered divisions.

Casualty estimates for all operations around Hanoi came to a total of 33,423 men lost taking Hanoi. That included all the river assaults made before the Royal Navy and Royal Commandos arrived to reinforce our troops.

A long grocery list of medals and decorations were won by our troops in Operation Tunnel. Nine Victoria Crosses, dozens of George Crosses, and a long list of Military Crosses were all awarded to Royal Marines and infantry men who earned them in the bitter fighting.
Once Operation Tunnel came to an end it became clear the the IJN had retreated to an occupied French port just north of Hainan and were using it to send out submarines and sorties.
At first Marines were ordered to simply cross the narrow straits and secure the port, but the IJN had other plans. Using their remaining ships they successfully blocked any and all attempts by our troops to cross the straits.
Finally it was the Paras turn to get their name on the score sheet.

Their third combat drop of the war saw the whole Para Corp drop to the south of the port and then fight their way in, forcing the Japanese ships into the waiting arms of our carriers and battleships. The land battle saw almost 400 enemy troops fall and only 38 Paras.
The following naval battle would see a mass battle by carrier based planes and war ships. While the Japanese ships were damaged, many managed to breakthrough our blockade and live to fight another day. Only a Japanese destroyer, cruiser and a submarine would be destroyed in the battle.
Back on the home front another Nuclear reactor finished construction. Surely our scientists at Oxford and Bletchley Park were at the forefront of the Nuclear race.
While fighting had been bitter in Indo-China, the only fighting that had gone on in Europe was wargames to get the new replacements up to speed and to freshen up old soldiers. Our divisions hadn't been deployed yet as no battle plans had been drawn up. Nor had any orders been drawn up for said battles. A meeting between us at the War Department, the King and Prime Minister was scheduled to happen in the coming months where the topic of the 'Soviet Question' would surely be raised.
In the Far East there had finally be positive progress after many months of stalemate. The Japanese had been pushed out of Indo-China at the loss of three carriers,five battleships and numerous smaller ships. Not to mention almost 300,000 men that would not see battle again that were lost in the jungles of Vietnam.

War had been ranging since 1939, but finally we could see the light at the end of the tunnel that the Axis was almost finished. Just a few more landings, more bitter fighting, and the Union Jack might just be raised over Tokyo the same way it had been over Berlin.

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